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What I think: 2018 Nissan Qashqai

If you want to know why auto-industry insiders think small SUVs will soon run compact cars into the ground, you don’t have to look much further than Nissan’s lineup. The Japanese company helped kick off the small-crossover craze with its oddball Juke in 2011, but has recently committed to a more mainstream approach signaled by the Juke’s forthcoming replacement with the Kicks, and the arrival of the Qashqai you see here.

Nissan has sold the Qashqai in Europe and elsewhere for a number of years, and while the name is new to us, this little utility shares its underpinnings with the familiar Rogue, a vehicle that lives at the large end of the compact-crossover spectrum and has done very well for Nissan in North America.

The Qashqai’s basis on the nicely-sorted Rogue is a good starting point that makes it a smooth driver, though more road and wind noise gets into the cabin than we remember from our last Rogue test drive.

Doing the work is a 2.0-litre that makes 141 hp and 147 lb-ft of torque. With that motivation under the hood, performance is fine, but you’ll get more straight-line satisfaction from stronger competitors like the Fiat 500X (180 hp) and Mitsubishi’s RVR (optional with 168 hp).

And while the Volkswagen Golf wagon is not technically a crossover, its Alltrack AWD option positions it as a competitor to cars like the Qashqai, while offering both more power and interior space.

Basic front-drive Qashqai models come with a manual transmission, but the continuously variable automatic (CVT) is mandatory with AWD. It’s not an exciting way to put power to the road, but it does so while mimicking the stepped gear changes of a traditional automatic and avoiding the droning engine note that annoys us in many other CVT-equipped cars.

While I normally ignore eco-minded drive modes, in the Qashqai this feature softens jumpy throttle response and makes it easier to drive smoothly. All we wished is that the car would remember which setting was engaged when the car is turned off; the button is awkwardly placed down by the driver’s left knee, which proved a pain given that we used it every time we started the car.

Button placement aside, if the idea behind it is to make the Qashqai more fuel-efficient, our test was inconclusive, because cold weather bumped fuel consumption to an average of nearly 11.0 L/100 km in mostly highway driving — much higher than Nissan’s estimates of 9.1/7.5 with the optional all-wheel drive system. That said, the AWD worked well during a week spent in the Laurentian Mountains north of Montreal, including the aftermath of a 20-cm snowfall.

Nissan says a FWD model with the CVT is nominally more efficient than my AWD tester, but given my experience with other vehicles offered with both types of drivetrains, a front-drive model could turn out to save more fuel in real-world driving than those estimates suggest.

Despite its small footprint, the Qashqai is plenty roomy (bulky winter clothing notwithstanding). Two of us were cozy but not cramped in the front seats, and the rear bench offers perfectly useful head- and legroom for adults, including lots of toe room under the front seats. Predictably, cargo space is limited, but the trunk floor can be adjusted downward a couple of inches to add a few valuable litres of volume.

Our test vehicle was the mid-range SV trim with AWD, a $26,798 vehicle that includes niceties like heated front seats and steering wheel and dual-zone automatic climate control. If you want a touchscreen-based infotainment system, you have to spring for the $29,498 SL trim, which also gets navigation and leather seating.

As good as I remembered the Rogue being when I last drove one in 2013, I wondered if the mechanically similar Qashqai would feel dated next to other automakers’ more modern crossover designs. Not at all: This is a nicely done little utility that I think buyers will find just as easy to live with as the Rogue. All I’d suggest is that if fuel economy is a priority for you, think hard about how much you need four-wheel traction.

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Posted by on January 7, 2018 in crossover, Crossovers/SUVs, Nissan

 

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What I think: 2015 Chevrolet Traverse

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It’s not difficult to make a big crossover interesting: what’s difficult is making something that’s interesting and still appeals to the mass-market consumers who buy these family-friendly vehicles. The Traverse does some things well, and others not-so-well, but does them all with a distinct lack of personality. Read my full review at AutoFocus.ca.

 

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What I think: 2015 Volkswagen Tiguan

2015 volkswagen tiguanIt’s normally easy to like a Volkswagen. They build great small cars, spacious family cars, and the Touareg mid-size crossover is a fantastic vehicle hampered only by a high price and VW’s upscale aspirations. Maybe it’s those same high hopes that left me disappointed in the company’s Tiguan compact crossover. Read my full review at TractionLife.com.

 

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What I think: 2015 Subaru Outback

2015 Subaru OutbackThe Outback is the car that turned Subaru’s fortunes around: in the mid-1990s, the company took a Legacy wagon, fitted it with a lifted suspension and rugged-looking body cladding, and ended up with a massively popular small crossover. Outback is all-new for 2015, and the result is an impressive, if unexciting, vehicle. Read my full review at AutoFocus.ca.

 

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What I think: 2013 Hyundai Santa Fe

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Another redesigned crossover; another redesigned Hyundai. Ho-hum. The Santa Fe is certainly not much to get excited about – unless you like getting lots of kit for not much money. In that case, then, yes, there’s plenty to like here, and in a vehicle that’s really quite nice to drive.

This, by the way, was my first review for my new full-time gig, with Autos by Sympatico.

 
 

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What I think: 2013 Ford Escape

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Ford’s redesigned Escape crossover is a good one, but the 1.6-litre turbocharged engine makes it great. Click here for my review at Autos.ca.

 
 

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What I think: 2013 Mazda CX-5 GX

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Mazda’s newest crossover is the CX-5, a good-looking number that also boasts the best of Mazda’s fuel-saving SkyActiv technology. I took a brief drive in a version that not many auto writers have had a chance to test: the basic GX trim, with a manual transmission, to boot! Click here to check out my Autos.ca review.

 

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